As a Service, Customer Success

Update on As a Service Trends

When Ikea considers changing its business model then you know something is afoot. The big news this last week was Ikea thinking about making certain items available on a subscription basis.

Good article on that here where the screenshot at left is from.

It’s looking at doing so on a trial basis so this will be a very interesting one to keep track of and see how things progress.

Circular economy

That article linked to above points to the concept of a circular economy which I was not even aware of but should be in the context of the As a Service trend that this post is about. The pasted paragraph below from the article says it all:

When Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport remodeled a terminal, it didn’t buy light bulbs; instead, the company signed a contract for “light as a service” from Signify, the company formerly known as Philips Lighting. Signify owns the physical lights, giving it the incentive to make products that last as long as possible and that can be easily repaired and recycled if anything breaks. The service is one example of a shift to a circular economy model. 

iPhone as a Service

I’m currently on Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Programme which in my view is its foray into the as a Service model. I captured how they are getting a little more tactical in my last Update on As a Service trends. Other than the obvious benefits they are targeting, that tactic shows how important it is to start treating your customers that sign up to a recurring financial commitment, with white gloves, so come time to renew, they do.

Volvo leading the race?

I cannot speak as intimately for Volvo’s execution on their subscription and as a Service promise but they are certainly talking a good talk. By all accounts they are struggling to keep up with demand. I’ve already written about my recent experience buying a car, which is all but a subscription service except in name. That experience is definitely not firing on all cylinders 😬

Customer Success, Sense Making

The role of innovation in customer success

Customer Success activities are maturing. I have been doing the job since at least 2012 and have seen the profession go through fundamental changes to the point where, to succeed now, you need to be innovating.

I started writing about the role of customer success in relation to customer experience and the subscription economy almost 18 months ago in this post: Customer experience, the subscription economy and 10 ways success teams will make you win.

Just in the time since that post things have changed. There is a constant need to update thinking and refocus. Innovation is be the tip of the iceberg in many ways.

Icebergs

Click to enlarge

The iceberg is not just a turn of phrase. It plays a prominent role in my thinking. I’ve captured other elements using the analogy of an iceberg in the past: The customer success and experience iceberg. These focus on the relationship between customer success and customer experience. They also focus more on the input and output of the two activities.

The iceberg is a useful metaphor and you will see me using it constantly. Customer success as a practice and overarching philosophy should be built and grown to a point where you are mature enough that constant innovation becomes the standard. In the featured image of this post you should see how innovation forms part of the tip of these three elements: build, grow, innovate.

Innovation

Innovation has always been a part of the equation for me and you should see that from the post I wrote 18 months ago and linked above – here is the section covering it. The three subsections below also still also hold true.

  • Automation and AI
  • As a Service
  • SaaS 2.0

Innovation is also at the apex of the maturity model I developed so its fitting to be doubling down on it: The Customer Success Team Maturity Model. The growing and building aspects remain important as they also form the basis for my mentoring.

Outside of the maturity model which relates to activities within the organisation, the profession has reached a point of maturity that means doing customer success well is not enough to differentiate you.

And as all industries face the growing power of the customer and all companies focus on meeting customer demands better, so innovation that drives better customer experiences becomes key.

As a Service Trend Report

The As a Service part which is listed as a subsection of innovation in customer success above will actually be the focus of a new trend report. It will incorporate customer success practices and innovation in this as well as many other practices.

It will also cover innovation as a whole, insofar as practices that are successful in one industry can be adopted by other industries to innovate. Find out more about the report by hitting the button below.

Other considerations

Innovation is a key focus area but as part of this, other considerations need to be borne in mind, within customer success as well as the broader As a Service trend. I’ll cover them in the trend report as well.

  1. Employee Experience. Addressing this leads to good customer experience – there is a powerful connection, see my daneldoodle below. I see the impact of the connection in the work I do and mentor on every day.
  2. Role of Leadership. This is critical in setting the tone in terms of mindset and culture which is so necessary for success with customers and creating great experiences. I will also cover trends in the creation of the Chief Customer Officer or other senior roles like it that indicate the growing importance of and focus on the customer.
Customer Success

Update on As a Service trends

In my new eBook / trend report I will cover the As a Service trend (see point 9 here for more on that) and the role customer success plays in it. This post and others that follow will document examples of where I see companies exhibiting behaviours of this trend.

I first wrote about them in these two separate blog posts below:

I’ll also capture screenshots and include commentary in a daneldoodle as I have done below – click on each to enlarge.

Sense Making

Playing your part in the machine of business is hard. Start with mindset.

Business transformations or change management efforts are a dime a dozen. We are bombarded by the constant need for change in the face of accelerating change. We get we need to build an ability to master change.

The problem is in the face of cynical change or transformation programs
where many have gone wrong, we have become inure to them.

Business is hard even without these constant demands and efforts. Competition is stiffer as the world becomes open to more entrants and barriers are lowered.

As individuals we are also constantly bombarded with admonishments to be better, more productive, keep up.

Mental health has never been more in focus and yet more pernicious in the face of all this. It imperils us as individuals and the businesses we work in – it comes at a cost to both. It can bring both to a grinding halt if left unchecked.

Mental health is a serious matter which often needs serious treatment that can come from expert help and with medication.

We also know instinctively that many afflictions arise in the mind by our own doing and can be solved there.

I am a huge believer in the power of the mind. As a keen follower of Buddhist philosophy over many years (a DharmaHacker really) I am convinced of the role the mind plays in guiding our reality. As the saying goes:

Mind precedes all mental states. Mind is their chief; they are all mind-wrought.

Acharya Buddharakkhita’s translation of the Dhammapada

But just as much as vacuous mission statements and change or transformation initiatives cannot really change an organisation if the behaviours of leaders do not reflect them, so too with thought alone we cannot change anything.

The Buddha’s view on positive thinking was that if it violates reality, it’s worthless. Just as you can’t make a boulder rise into the air by means of wishful thinking, so you can’t experience happiness unless you actually do the things that lead to happiness, such as living ethically.

Speech and action determine our reality as much as our thoughts do. Yet thought and mindset is a factor and so on that front, let us mind what we think.

We can do that through stories. And metaphors. And the minds of others.

I am as inspired as the next by great stories, metaphors, quotes and the great minds who have shared their thoughts with the world, like the Buddha.

Coming back to the world of business, there is none more inspirational than Buckminster Fuller (July 12, 1895–July 1, 1983).

In the light of all of the challenges we face as individuals in companies big and small and faced with the daunting proposition that we cannot make a difference, Buckminster Fuller presents the ultimate metaphor to help us – the trim tab.

There is such a great account of his trim tab metaphor here on BrainPickings: Buckminster Fuller’s Brilliant Metaphor for the Greatest Key to Transformation and Growth.

In essence, the trim tab is part of a large ship’s navigation and contained within the rudder. It is like a little rudder that is easy to shift but this effects the big rudder, the one harder to move, and this one moves the ship.

It speaks to the power of individual action and the effect of habit on transforming our lives. You can see how this translates to the businesses we work in every day and how to overcome the feeling that we are powerless.

There are so many more and here below are just a few of my favourites.

Stainslaw Jerzy Lec who was a Polish poet said “No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.” Actually, this metaphor is a great compliment to Fuller’s in my view.

At first it may not seem to be the case because it speaks to herd thinking, mob rule and the danger of conformity and going along with the crowd which have lead to some of the worlds worst atrocities.

Yet I love it because it points to accountability and the need for you to avoid the above and make sure you can stand alone, against the winds of change sometimes.

“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” Mother Teresa said that and I love it too because it says look to yourself for inspiration and just do it.

At Google X, the company’s “moonshot factory,” they supposedly use the mantra of MonkeyFirst.

“The idea is that if you want to get a monkey to recite Shakespeare on a pedestal, you start by training the monkey, not building the pedestal, because training the monkey is the hard part. Anyone can build a pedestal.”

“The problem is that most people start with the pedestal, because it’s what they know and by building it, they can show early progress against a timeline. Unfortunately, building a pedestal gets you nowhere. Unless you can actually train the monkey, working on the pedestal is wasted effort.”

The analogy with my line of work is striking. I deal with how organisations adopt technology and often it is the first port of call for most but technology alone is not enough. One has to look at the outcomes, the motivations and inspiration, the people, etc.

And finally…

“Life beats down and crushes the soul and art reminds you that you have one”. Stella Adler said that which is why I am so inspired by art and design and so I doodle which brings me to a recent one 😁

What are your favourites and how do they work for you?

Customer Success

Considering buying a new technology platform, ask this about their customer success

I’ve been on both the receiving and offering end of efforts so can speak to both. In the Software as a Service business especially, if that is how the platform is offered, the vendor should have a team supporting how the platform is deployed, adopted and maintained. Moreover, the team should be focused on helping the customer maximise their investment in the technology by helping to achieve the business outcomes the technology was purchased for.

If they don’t, that should already be a warning sign that they are not a mature vendor. If they do and you are comparing vendor offerings, use these notes as a basis for evaluating them on this aspect of their offering. Bear in mind that these notes apply to enterprise B2B scenarios, technology platforms and customer success teams.

If you are unsure of what customer success is, there is a primer on this page.

Methodology

They should have an approach to customer success. It need not use or have become a renown and universally accepted strategic framework. If anything, it should be lightweight, iterative and intended to grow usage/adoption and value outcomes over time. It should drive growing organisational maturity in terms of platform capabilities and ever increasing value delivery.

It should focus on users and use cases and prioritising them as well as identifying key measures of success. These should be tracked periodically with the support of the customer success manager.

Broadly, the methodology should have an envisioning stage, identifying overall goals then those specific to priority uses cases for any given period. KPI’s should form part of this.

Then an execution part where users are supported in adopting the features, functions and workflows specific to the priority use cases.

Finally, an evaluation stage where progress is tracked against goals. This then feeds back in a loop to target improvements for the next phase of planning and execution.

The approach is very agile and borrows from lean startup methodology which is the way some of the worlds greatest technology products and companies are grown successfully.

Deliverables that a Customer Success Manager and the vendor are committed to

Note that some of these are ideal states or options and just because a vendor does not offer them fully, does not mean they will not do a good job for you. Each option or state will have to be weighed up in priority terms you set. You could create a weighted scoring mechanism as many customers do to aid decision making.

Usage, Adoption and Value Delivery

  • Success strategy development support that leads to a clear vision, plan and outcomes
    • People will have a clear understanding of the purpose of the tool in the organisation
    • Plan covers all the right use cases and workflows and it is communicated clearly
    • A path is created for users to be inspired, educated and efforts can be scaled

Insight Reviews (monthly)

  • Progress tracking against planned usage and adoption and business outcomes achieved
  • Success and best practice sharing from global customer base

Business Reviews (quarterly)

  • Use case and KPI reviews and outcomes evaluation
  • Recommendations on best ways forward
  • Platform roadmap reviews

Customer Advocacy

  • Provide a window for the customer to product teams and vice versa for special needs to be communicated and usage insights to be shared that drive further product development
  • Access to the right stakeholders on both sides (senior executive engagement, special interest stakeholders, etc.)
  • Access to other customers on reference calls, on Customer Advisory Boards, at customer meetups, etc.

Customer Support and Services

  • Learning material and clear documentation that is constantly updated on a central and easily accesible repository
  • Professional services around adoption and change management enabling user/data driven behaviour change
  • Clear customer support commitments around logging issues, response times, etc.

Product Support

  • Onboarding help and guidance including and especially in-product and also ongoing user support
  • Planning and tracking capabilities
    • A way to plan user activities (plan elements and outcomes targeted) and track and correct where necessary, ideally with automated tasks – feedback loops for administrators and users to see progress and take remedial action where necessary and/or have automated
    • Robust analytics and reporting tools to track usage and activity that the customer (administrator and end user) can access
    • A means to correlate activity with business outcomes – especially for administrators or those responsible for the platform to be able to feed back to relevant parts of the business

Is the vendor asking for your commitment

If they are not, chances are they don’t understand all of the dynamics needed to drive success. These often take the form of:

Senior exec stakeholder/s:

Its important that the technology has a mandate from the top. A stakeholder that communicates the need for users to be in the platform and why its important

Project/Program Manager:

Someone or a team who’s core responsibility is developing a good success strategy and execution of it (supported by CSM). The person/s will also support users and report to business executives in terms of making sure main targets are met. At least a single person should be dedicated to the task full time. In larger organisations with many users it’s a core team. They should have commitment to pursue deep knowledge (through training) with time available to support the platform and be committed to it.

Administrator:

Someone who is responsible for the maintenance of the platform from a technical point of view, adding users, configuration, SSO, etc.

Champions:

Super users who are extremely knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the platform and are willing to spend time outside of their normal jobs to support the core team and users with driving adoption and value creation for the company.

What else, any I missed?

Future of Work, Sense Making

Leading the right behaviours through metrics and new work models

Metrics drive behaviour. Organisations also know that they can better manage, what they can measure.

So if you want to change behaviours, look at the metrics you are using and how they are driving behaviours.

You also need to look at the models and frameworks in which the metrics are contextualised and which drive them.

The foundation

A while back I felt that an overarching model or framework for the modern organisation did not exist considering the many accelerating changes we face.

An holistic one that encompassed business needs as well as that of the individual and collection of individuals that go to make a business work.

One that was current and kept up with the times.

Abraham Maslow defined a model for the individual that started at a basic level and went through increasing levels of motivation through to actualisation.

It has been broadly adopted in many fields, including business and has survived the times. It focuses on the individual. I wondered if a similar model could apply to organisations and the Modern Organisations Hierarchy of Needs was born.

The application of an existing and accepted framework/model to a new field is nothing new and works if the respective fields have similarities and largely they do.

The new framework/model has been well received and even replicated since which is validation to some degree.

What is missing?

For one, the quantifiable, measurable determinants that would validate the levels and allow it be applied in a real world context.

Further external validation of the model itself is needed too.

I teamed up with Natalia Dobias (a colleague at Microsoft and a change management consultant) and we set about exploring the options.

One task has been to look at whether we could make the current model measurable and the reason for this post.

There are other factors we are going to look at to validate and indeed improve the model if we can.

In this post I wanted to work openly to capture and progress my thoughts on measurement of business performance in the context of the existing model. A classic sensemaking piece.

My theory is that if there are valid metrics being used out there for the many different levels and aspects of the current model, that is a form of validation.

What do good measures in the current model look like

On the basis of some simple Google searches I found a few good posts in each category and chose the ones that ranked at the top and I thought did the best job of covering the category. The exercise was simply to see if the category was covered and how well, as a proxy for its importance.

  1. Business metrics. Loads of results for this category as you would expect. Here is a great post that captures a wide array of business metrics. The author has done a good job of collating a range of metrics covering financial, human resource, marketing, sales and SaaS metrics. So many of these sub categories fit into mine below, naturally.
  2. Technology and Space metrics. This is also a broad area so some elaboration. This post covers the technology side on the pure IT function metrics but that is just one area. How technology helps achieve specific business outcomes requires delving into each business category the technology supports in helping to achieve those outcomes. That’s another area, for example, CRM tools are clearly designed to focus on driving revenue metrics for sales teams. Then, as with Microsoft where I currently work and perhaps uniquely, there is technology to help track personal and organisational productivity through use of technology. On space metrics, there is lots on the facilities management front, this post for example. What I was keen to find out was the impact of physical space on employees and any metrics that were used to judge that. Do a Google search on the keywords in italics and you will find much on the subject. I’ve kept these two areas together because technology is increasingly intertwined with the physical, think IoT, digital twins, etc.
  3. Culture metrics. Lots of results on querying this category. Some great pointers in this post and I thought worth mentioning because of its well rounded and holistic views on how culture impacts other areas, eg, innovation, collaboration, etc.
  4. Performance and learning metrics. My first port of call is metrics that HR departments will use to manage employee performance – great post here on that and many more besides. Similarly on the learning and development side which is a pretty robust field of study with a good post on that here.
  5. Creativity and innovation metrics. As I was hoping and expecting, tons of results on the innovation side and not just focused on R&D activities, the traditional domain for innovation performance measurement. This article captures some really good alternative metric categories for innovation. Creativity is a little more nebulous but is often tied into innovation. This discussion thread and in the last comment a whole bunch of excellent onward links, identifies the challenges and opportunities for measuring these two inter-related areas.

Other factors and new work models

In early discussions, Natalia and I have identified a bunch of opportunities for improvements and further work to develop a more robust model. I’ll share those here as we progress.

Metrics are just one aspect but you have to start somewhere and this is as good a place as any. This post does work that I never did on the model too, so is also a good start.

Metrics have shortcomings when they are purely business focused as I have been in this post. Without a sense check on ethical, social, humanitarian and other grounds, you could be blinded. By any measure (pun intended) there are some classic mistakes of this having gone wrong.

So the one thing that I think is missing from the model so far is the social impact of an organisation’s activities. Also the collective effort of the organisation – the network or community which was a problem identified in criticism of Maslow’s original Hierarchy of Needs – see underlined part that comes from Wikipedia. An organisation is after all a collection of individuals striving to achieve a singular purpose.

Natalia and I have our work cut out. This is a beast of an exercise but imagine having a “theory of everything” for the modern organisation. I’m looking forward to the journey in any event.

If you have any thoughts, research or experience to share, please hit us up in a comment below.

Sense Making

Thought Rocket: The Conversation is the Collaboration

Workplace chat is something I am heavily focused on at the moment, i.e. my customers use of Microsoft Teams. Either through lack of knowledge or legacy thinking, I’m faced with initial confusion. This quick video aims to tackle that.

I’m trying to emphasise that it’s not about the many things I get asked to address first. After doing a demo, often the immediate questions are around how to structure files and folders, Teams and the different environments themselves, how to organise Teams and Channels, Tabs, etc.

I try get to the essence of a tool like Teams. For me it’s first and foremost about the conversations – in channels or chats. That is where the essence of teamwork and collaboration happen. Get that right and then the structure will flow – that is the right order and based on getting the hard but most impactful stuff done first.

That is the essence I am trying to distil in the short video which is a play on Marshall McLuhan’ famous view on the Medium is the Message. So since this is a thought rocket, a super quick view on things expressed in a short video, doodle or blog post, I’ll leave it at that and for you to make of it what you will.

Sense Making

Thought Rocket: Persona’s and knowing your users

I put this simple video together the other day. I shared it on LinkedIn and it got some good feedback – check the comments. The post and comments go in to more detail in terms what I was thinking and how responses helped me flesh it out a little. So herewith, the video:

Customer Success, Sense Making

What good data looks like

This last week I attended a meetup and workshop in London organised by Customer Success Network, a European based not-for-profit community for customer success managers. It had the same title as this post.

An excellent session which started off with a few minutes of talking by Dan Steinman, GM Gainsight EMEA. I then facilitated one of the breakout workshop sessions on how good data should be used in QBR’s (Quarterly or Executive Business Reviews as they are commonly known). Here are some brief notes.

Getting started

Dan started off talking about we all have some “good enough” data, which should be good enough for starters. In other words, don’t get hung up with not having a perfect set of usage data or reporting setup. You can easily get started with things that don’t require usage data but can tell you a lot about your customer and how to manage them. Things like:

  • How long have they been a customer?
  • How many renewals have they done?
  • What is their ARR now vs originally?
  • Are they paid up on their bills?
  • # of Support cases open?
  • Survey results?

In terms of the elusive product usage data though, you HAVE to get it at some point. Some ways mentioned: Segment.io, MixPanel, Google Analytics, Aptrinsic. I’ve used MixPanel which was okay but had great experience with Looker too and in my current work I use PowerBI where we actually focus on enabling the customer to have the same views and insights as the customer success manager.

On the last point above, this is holy grail territory in my view because then you and the customer can have truly meaningful conversations since there is a plain and evident, single source of truth you can discuss strategies around.

Back to product usage data. Your product/engineering team should want it as badly as you do. Start with the bare minimum – logins, pageviews, reports run, etc. Don’t accept no for an answer.

Muck in even if it means having to learn a new tool. I remember spending an enormous amount of time learning first MixPanel and then Looker in my last role. All the product team had done was create the connections with the usage data and the reporting tool but how to make sense of it was left up to your own devices. But oh how rewarding when it works and you start making sense of the data and having the right conversations with the customer.

And its not just your product/engineering team who should want it as badly as you do. Marketing and sales teams have spent decades and millions perfecting understanding of prospects. Once they understand that customers are the new growth engine, they’ll be on board to help you create and share access to the same level of understanding on customers.

Different use cases for data

The workshop breakouts were pretty much focused on different use cases for data. I facilitated the one on QBR’s. The activity was focused on mapping as-is and to-be QBR data definitions. First we defined traditional definitions. Next we challenged these. How else could we focus on predictive or future-focused growth measures? What were they?

The output was a view of mapped current and future-focused CS measures, and why you’d use them. Here is the groups output after I took the raw material, cleaned it up, tweaked it and added a little of my own spin.

QBR To-Be – Traditional Approach
QBR To-Be – Future Approach

 The other breakout sessions all explored different aspects/use cases of data usage like:

  • You work in a small start-up where customer success is just evolving. You want to able to demonstrate the role of the team to show the impact you are making internally.
  • Your company has been expanding rapidly, the growth of MRR is now driven by expansions and upselling, which is owned by the Customer Success team. You’ve been asked by your CEO to demonstrate CS’s impact across the business to prepare for another round of funding.
  • Customer Success teams are increasingly expected to become more financially driven. This exercise was intended to demonstrate their role in contributing to the growth of the company.
  • Drawing out a success plan which would help the most immature customer success team understand:
    • What value looks like and where CSM’s can get data from (even if they don’t “have any” today)
    • How to track customer health through the life cycle with what they have

NOTE: There is an evolving document capturing the output of all the sessions.

Customer Success, Sense Making, Startup Innovation

What business are you in?

The question in the title derives from the classic marketing thought piece by Theodore Levitt entitled Marketing Myopia. At the time it rocked not just the marketing world but the business world in general and has shaped business thinking ever since.

Published in the Harvard Business Review in July/August 1960, it is no less relevant today. I remember being excited about the concept on encountering it for the first time when doing my Masters in Marketing and I still am. It’s a foundational positioning model that I consider in some of my mentoring work. There are limitations to its applicability but it is still a sound concept.

By way of explanation, the famous piece starts with an illustration:

“The railroads did not stop growing because the need for passenger and freight transportation declined. That grew. The railroads are in trouble today not because the need was filled by others (cars, trucks, airplanes, even telephones), but because it was not filled by the railroads themselves.”

“They let others take customers away from them because they assumed themselves to be in the railroad business rather than in the transportation business. The reason they defined their industry wrong was because they were railroad-oriented instead of transportation-oriented; they were product-oriented instead of customer-oriented.”

The myopia referred to is a failing of definition by being too narrow in how you view the business you are in. Levitt urged marketers and business owners to stop defining themselves by what they produced and instead reorient themselves toward customer needs. This would ultimately define the business they were in on the basis of the most important stakeholder group that mattered – the customer.

An example of mistaken definition

Again by way of explanation, I made these points to one of the founders of Percolate about two years ago, mid way through my employment there.

I had questions around the business Percolate was in and how it was being defined. I framed my thoughts and feedback in the context of Levitt’s.

At the time (thankfully this has now changed), they defined their business as being in the supply of enterprise systems of record. They compared themselves to Salesforce for sales, Workday for HR.

In Percolate’s case, they were catering to marketers with a system of record for marketers. All of their marketing messaging and branding was centred on this key definition.

I questioned this fundamentally as a short-sighted and inward looking approach to marketing that focused on the needs of the company instead of defining the company and its products in terms of the customers’ needs and wants. It would result in a failure to see and adjust to the rapid changes in the market. My reasoning was as follows:

  1. The marketing record is the byproduct of a transaction and necessary for monitoring and tracking outcomes over time. But as a concept it’s not very inspirational to a typical user. It’s also the function of technology and by that virtue, product-oriented.
  2. It may appeal to an executive who wants to account for expenditure and effort in his or her organisation and you should appeal to this person’s needs in selling efforts. But to be successful you also need to focus on and inspire end users.
  3. Focus on end user input and how it is facilitated (briefing and planning necessary for creative work). Focus on output (execution of great creative marketing campaigns). Focus on how it makes them better at their job. System of Results might be a more appropriate positioning statement, especially in a SaaS world where usage is a major factor in retention and you need to go beyond the initial positioning focused around customer acquisition.
  4. Increasing pressure is being placed on marketers to be more creative and stand out. Creative work that can, will be operationalised, automated and performed by AI. Most creativity that counts, dealing with imagination and innovation that moves other humans to action, will remain with humans.
  5. Marketers are in the creativity business. Data skills are increasingly coming to the fore but that can be handled by machines. Products that help marketing customers manage their creative work and stand out, will stand out themselves. Doing more to spark creativity and collaborative features to aid collective creativity will stand out but it’s also what’s done on the service side and how you orient to enable organisational actualisation that matters.
  6. The Modern Organisation’s Hierarchy of Needs positions creativity and innovation as the pinnacle of organisational actualisation and all other layers as necessary but supporting elements – like a system of record.
  7. Focus the Customer Success service on helping customers achieve this level of actualisation. It takes the focus away from product and features which is always tricky and prone to disappointment (the difference between what is promised by sales and what is delivered post-sales often falls short).
  8. I would argue that all of the above positions the company proposition on uplifting and inspiring activities like enabling creativity, imagination, innovation, etc. This is the right way to position it, on the right activities, that will make humans stand out in a sea of machines. That move away from products and technology and onto human ingenuity. This will make all the difference as good positioning strategy should.

I didn’t share the above to dis Percolate. I wanted to share my original thinking and revisit it because I’ve been thinking a lot about this again recently. It keeps coming back like a bad habit. So many industries are faced with a fundamental re-evaluation of the business they are in because of rapid changes in the market. Much more so than the railroads faced back in the day.

Changes that are disrupting incumbent players and being taken advantage of by opportunistic startups that are positioning themselves in the right way.

What’s working and what isn’t?

It’s about getting creative with how you deliver products and services, leverage technology and position yourself. Getting creative with the very fabric of your business, its business model. That is what creates the Uber’s, WeWork’s and Air BnB’s of tomorrow.

My view on where Microsoft is (re)positioning itself.

And it’s not just startups. Microsoft is reinventing itself very successfully on the back of its new positioning. It’s why I am (back) here. It also goes beyond business models and touches on aspiration and effects culture which is what Microsoft has fixed led by its new CEO Satya Nadella. From an aspiration led vision to be “a PC on every desk” which was applicable then and worked well for them and the time, to “empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more”. This latter is very much focused on the type of creativity we need to engender with employees and is reflected in its (re)positioning – in my view. How we help customers get creative is what I was arguing Percolate should do and what I think Microsoft is helping do more and more.

The auto industry is not doing so well. If you leave Tesla aside you will see an industry struggling to find its place in the new world and with reinventing themselves as they must. I’m not the only one to think so: Why Car Makers Are In A Death Spiral.

Since I’m working with the industry at the moment I am noticing first hand the lack of speed and imagination in doing the work necessary to reinvent themselves

I’ve suggested solutions (see below) – time will tell if they listen and how things pan out.

SaaS beyond Software – Automakers

The connected car vision is missing a few connections